Researching Performance For / By/ With Young People

full name / name of organization: 
Canadian Association for Theatre Research / Association Canadienne de la Recherche Théâtrale Conference

Child, baby, girl, boy, youth, juvenile, adolescent, young adult, young people are all age-bounded categories, laden with assumptions about who does and does not belong to them. They often suggest a state of becoming and borders to cross on the way to something else – usually adulthood. Those categories profoundly colour the way that artists produce work, institutions engage with young audiences and young performers, and influence the way we as scholars engage with our own research about and with young people within the context of theatre and performance studies.

Inspired by Catherine Driscoll's definition of the category "girl" as "an assemblage of social and cultural issues and questions rather than a field of physical facts […]" (2010), this seminar will engage with questions regarding how scholars define young identities in their performance research and ways existing young identity monikers complicate research. For example, iconic figures of girls appearing in popular discourses, such as the early twentieth century Gibson Girl, have been treated, in scholarly research, as the "New Woman" which raises questions about how we identify and understand young people, and how young people perform their identities. Categorizing the girl as a New Woman complicates the related social and political discourses

We invite participants to share ways that their own research in performance for/by/with young people, in contemporary or historical contexts, in Canada or elsewhere, is complicated by the very borders of the field, and to consider the ways that those borders influence ideas about topics such as (but certainly not limited to):

- aesthetic choices in theatre for babies or young people

- engaging with taboo subjects on stage or in drama classrooms,

- creating and staging young characters,

- performing personal identities,

- performance projects with children leading "adult" lives (such as teen mothers or young people in refugee camps)

- constructs of identity in talent shows and beauty contests

- stardom, skill, stamina, remuneration, and training

In the form of a short (1,500 word) "working paper", we invite participants to share, a challenge or dilemma related to research and writing about young people and performance. Working papers will be posted to a secure website in advance of the conference for viewing by participants and registrants. We will assign respondents to each, and organize the session as a series of related research questions.

Interested participants are asked to submit a 250 – 300 word abstract of their proposed paper topic and a short bio to: Heather Fitzsimmons Frey ( or Marlene Mendonca ( by February 1, 2014. Participants will circulate their 1,500 word working papers by April 6 to facilitate online discussion prior to the conference. Applications are encouraged from graduate students, scholars early in their careers, and seasoned veterans. The area of research is not restricted to a particular time or place. Explorations of the challenges related to young people and any area of drama, theatre and performance studies, whether amateur or professional, are welcome.